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Voting Rights

Justice Department Blocks Discriminatory Voting Practices In Georgia PDF  | Print |  Email
By ACLU Press Release   
June 01, 2009
A Coalition Of Voting Rights Advocates Challenged Illegal Voter Registration Procedures

A coalition of voting rights groups and attorneys today praised a decision by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to block the use of flawed and racially discriminatory voter registration practices by Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. In a letter sent this past Friday from Civil Rights Division Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the DOJ informed the state that it had failed to establish that two new voter verification procedures did not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Georgia is required to submit new voting procedures for federal review before they are implemented.

The voting rights coalition, which includes the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, Georgia attorney Brian Spears and the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, represents Cherokee County resident Jose Morales, the Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services in a federal lawsuit against Secretary Handel. That lawsuit, which was filed last October in Atlanta, forced Secretary Handel to submit the contested voter registration procedures for Section 5 review, which Handel had refused to do despite the federal requirement.

"We are pleased that the Department of Justice correctly found that Secretary Handel's verification procedures are inaccurate and discriminatory," said Jon Greenbaum, legal director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Preventing these procedures from going into effect will prevent Secretary Handel from keeping many thousands of eligible Georgia voters off the rolls."
New York Times: The Acorn Story PDF  | Print |  Email
By New York Times   
October 18, 2008
This editorial appeared in the New York Times on October 16, 2008.

In Wednesday night’s debate, John McCain warned that a group called Acorn is “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history” and “may be destroying the fabric of democracy.” Viewers may have been wondering what Mr. McCain was talking about. So were we.

Acorn is a nonprofit group that advocates for low- and moderate-income people and has mounted a major voter-registration drive this year. Acorn says that it has paid more than 8,000 canvassers who have registered about 1.3 million new voters, many of them poor people and members of racial minorities.

In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has accused the group of perpetrating voter fraud by intentionally submitting invalid registration forms, including some with fictional names like Mickey Mouse and others for voters who are already registered.

Based on the information that has come to light so far, the charges appear to be wildly overblown — and intended to hobble Acorn’s efforts.
Project Vote Call to Protect the Votes of Americans Facing Foreclosure PDF  | Print |  Email
By Project Vote   
October 14, 2008
The economic crisis now looms as the most important issue in the upcoming election, but there are concerns that partisan forces may be afraid to hear what those hit hardest by the downturn have to say at the polls. Recent reports in several states have indicated that partisan operatives are considering challenging the right to vote of Americans who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their homes to foreclosure.

Today the voting rights group Project Vote sent letters to both major political parties in 10 states—AZ, CO, FL, GA, MO, NC, NM, NV, PA, and VA—urging them to "oppose and refrain from" using lists of home foreclosures as the basis for "voter caging" operations. Project Vote also sent letters to secretaries of state in each of these states, outlining existing state and federal legal protections for voters, and urging election officials to "take all lawful steps" to protect foreclosure victims and other Americans from being disenfranchised based solely on returned mail or residency challenges. 

"Losing your home doesn't mean you lose your right to vote," says Project Vote Attorney Teresa James, who is the author of the Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters. "Challenging every voter whose residence was or is being foreclosed upon would serve no purpose but to interfere with the orderly conduct of the election and intimidate those voters who are not aware of their legal options under the law."
New York Times: States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ian Urbina   
October 09, 2008
This article was published in the October 9, 2008 edition of the New York Times.

The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.

Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.

Some states allow such voters to cast provisional ballots. But they are often not counted because they require added verification.

Social Security Asks Six States to Review Voter Registration Verification Procedures PDF  | Print |  Email
By Social Security Administration   
October 06, 2008
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, on Friday contacted the Secretaries of State for Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio and asked them, based onm extraordinarily high levels of requests to SSA, to review their procedures to ensure that they are fully complying with applicable federal laws relating to the registration of voters. Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, most States are required to verify the last four digits of the Social Security number of only those new people seeking to register to vote who do not possess a valid State driver’s license.

“It is absolutely essential that people entitled to register to vote are allowed to do so,” Commissioner Astrue stated. “While there may well be legitimate explanations for the high levels of requests, I am confident that the States we have contacted will review their procedures promptly to ensure that they are in full compliance with federal law.”
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